SASKATOON – Every year 5,000 calls are made to police involving someone having a mental health crisis. That’s more than 400 calls a month or roughly 14 calls a day to police for emotional disturbances.
“Sometimes I would not have wanted to put someone in a jail cell but I had no other options,” said Insp. Mitch Yuzdepski with the Saskatoon Police Service Specialized Uniform Operations.
Those days are now in the past since a collaborative initiative was launched in June 2014. A team known as the Police and Crisis Team, or PACT, is revolutionizing the way those calls are handled.
“We respond with a police officer, we respond with a mental health trained crisis worker and we also respond with the benefit of information from both of those systems.”
New data helps paint a fuller picture for police and helps those in crisis get the care they need.
“We need to make sure we’re getting people the right help, at the right time so that they can actually deal with their health issue and not end up in the justice system,” said Tracy Muggli, director of Mental Health and Addiction Services with the Saskatoon Health Region.
On Thursday, PACT released results associated with their work between Nov. 1, 2014 and Oct. 31, 2015. Not only did the members respond to 875 occurrences, here are some of the metrics :
Rita Field, executive director for the Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service, says the PACT results show no one organization can do it on their own and that the team’s successes have exceeded her expectations.
“Making lives better, connecting people with services and saving lives that’s really the tops for me.”
Right now there are two teams in Saskatoon working opposite shifts. Regina has it’s own version of PACT. The minister responsible for corrections and policing, Christine Tell, called Saskatoon’s results “golden to the province” but wouldn’t confirm an expansion of the program at this time.
“No decision has been made as to whether we’re going to expand or where we’re going to expand to.”
Police recruits at the Saskatchewan Police College receive 75 hours of instruction on firearms delivered throughout a 20 week program, a number consistent with the national average across Canada.
This compared to 26.25 hours of training specifically targeted at mental health issues during the same time period. This includes the Canadian Mental Health Commission’s Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a 12 hour training program that addresses substance use disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders.
Every year, officers have to re-qualify for firearms but for mental health that’s it. The Saskatoon Police Service is aiming to change that by providing two-12 hour days of mental health first-aid training to 100 of it’s members. So far 58 have been trained.
© 2016 Shaw Media